Explaining why Peggy is my favourite Singer is not easy but I’ll do my best. Like most youngsters I came to music by way of pop. Like everyone else at the time growing up in the 1960s I listened to the latest releases and whilst I had my favourites most songs/singers made little lasting impression. My ‘history’ with Peggy started when she appeared on UK TV show Juke Box Jury in 1963 but, at that time, she made no impact because she didn’t sing! She did sing when I first heard her on German Radio in 1967 and that song was Memories of Heidelberg - that was it - I liked the voice and the way she sang. I didn’t know Peggy was not German because names were not a reliable guide to a singers nationality at the time. (See this article on Dolls in Deutschland -http://www.chachacharming.com/article.php?id=30). Peggy was on German radio every night and just about every night I would listen to her then latest release. Of course these records were not released in the UK so I could’t buy them. Living in the England in the 1960s meant that if you wanted to listen to Peggy you had to listen to German Radio. I did like other female singers who were on the radio (France Gall, Wencke Myhre, Alexandra, Manuela and Vicky) but male singers were far more popular especially Peter Alexander - I wasn’t a fan. Radio listening took its toll on my mother - "Paul turn the radio off!", I invariably fell asleep with the radio left on but developed the knack of waking up when Peggy was singing - this currently presents a problem! I got older, went to University and from around late 1970 I stopped being able to receive the station I used to listen to and so Einmal verliebt - immer verliebt was the last song I remember. Peggy then disappears out of my life for a long time!
Life moves on but I decided to find out more about Peggy - a search on the Internet for Memories of Heidelberg resulted in my spending the next many hours (OK - days) finding our more than I could almost ever wish for about Peggy’s history and recordings. At last Peggy probably received some income from my interest as I bought all the available CDs. I even got to see pictures and videos of Peggy and discovered she was an American, had a recording history prior to 1967 and had a career subsequent to 1971!
How I respond to music is a mixture of my emotional response and the technical competence of the singer. Let's dismiss the technical quickly. I always listen to the Cardiff Singer of the World competition (a major international competition for early career Opera singers) and I always seem to be able to pick the top performers even though I have no musical background. But picking the top performers doesn’t mean I want to listen to the artists sing or buy their recordings. For that I need to be emotionally engaged with the performance AND they need to have a very good voice. It also helps if the music and lyrics are great but not always. My favourite music is Opera and my favourite Opera is Tristan und Isolde - which gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. Act 3 of Die Walkure where Wotan is torn between punishing Brunnhilde for defying him and forgiving her because he loves her so much has the same effect. If this is on the radio and I’ve fallen asleep I wake up every time just like when Peggy used to be on. Peggy doesn’t give me goose bumps but a great number of her tracks cause me to respond emotionally.
For me Peggy is a complete singer - her singing appears effortless, her voice has a good vocal range and has ‘character’. She can sing a capella, with limited musical support (e.g. the Amor LP) or when accompanied by a full orchestra. She also sings different styles with apparent ease e.g. jazz, rock, schlager, blues. She can also lay down great tracks both in the studio and live (e.g. the in Kyoto LP).
Peggy also developed into a polished TV performer (unlike many singers who appear ‘wooden’ on TV) and always appears relaxed and interested when being interviewed (although this clearly wasn’t the case in her very early years).
So which tracks/period do I like most? I like her in all the periods. Although her voice and performances clearly evolves over the years from that of a young girl to an adult I don’t prefer one period or style to another. The latest album Always and Forever is as engaging as any of her earlier work - Peggy clearly still possesses a great voice. I like her songs in different languages but I tend to mostly listen to her performances in German and English.
I often listen to Peggy’s music when traveling - a long-haul flight gives ample opportunity to play lots of her songs. However if I want to get any sleep I can’t listen to her sing - my brain still wants me to be fully awake!